Public wants united Japanese govt to address quake issues


PRIME Minister Naoto Kan has been unable to exercise leadership in dealing with the ongoing crisis arising from the massive March 11 earthquake and the ensuing series of accidents at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

This opinion was shared by about 70 per cent of people surveyed in The Yomiuri Shimbun's latest poll, the first of its kind since the quake-tsunami calamity struck.

Only very slow progress has been made in implementing measures to overcome the current crisis. The results of the Yomiuri survey should be viewed as an indication of strong popular desire for the prime minister to properly deal with the postquake situation.

Kan gets poor marks

About 60 percent of respondents said the Kan administration did not deserve praise for its response to the accidents at the Fukushima nuclear complex.

The figure can be perceived as showing the anxiety and frustration felt by those polled about the dire situation of the areas affected by the nuclear crisis. It is still unknown when the government will find a way to resolve the crisis, even as radioactive contamination due to the accidents continues to spread.

The initial response to the Fukushima plant disaster trailed behind events, thus giving rise to a further chain of crises there. Liaison and cooperation among the Prime Minister's Office, Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency were no less inadequate in this respect.

Questions can also be raised about the way these institutions have released information regarding the nuclear crisis, as indicated by the delay in disclosing the facts about the situation.

As chief commander of the administration, the prime minister must humbly listen to the voices of the people and hurry to overcome the nuclear crisis, a task that must be complemented by further efforts to put the public's distrust and anxiety to rest.

Meanwhile, the Kan Cabinet's support rate stood at 31 percent, a significant increase of seven points from a similar survey taken in early March. This seems to indicate the cataclysmic earthquake has stemmed the precipitous fall in the Cabinet's popularity rating, which was caused by Kan's loss of the public's trust.

The rise in the support rate should be viewed as an illustration of respondents' belief that they have no choice but to rely on the current Cabinet in this unprecedented situation, given that the nation cannot afford a shift in the premiership or the dissolution of the House of Representatives for a general election.

In the immediate postquake period, daily necessities did not reach survivors, and fuel shortages in stricken areas were serious. Despite a gradual improvement in the situation, quake victims face arduous daily lives. A number of elderly people have died at evacuation shelters.

We hope the government will be even more careful and meticulous about aiding quake victims and rebuilding their lives. It is also necessary to ensure that the large amounts of contributions collected nationwide are used to help quake victims as soon as possible.

This is a time for unity

It is noteworthy that a solid majority of pollees--64 percent--supported the idea of tying the ruling Democratic Party of Japan with the leading opposition Liberal Democratic Party to form a grand coalition government.

The current situation can be described as a national crisis. We feel many members of the public believe the ruling and opposition parities should unite their efforts to fight the ongoing disaster. With this in mind, the opposition camp must sincerely listen to the voices of the people.

There is a mountain of tasks to be tackled by the government in trying to rehabilitate the stricken areas, including the compilation of a supplementary budget, a possible tax increase and the establishment of special legislation for reconstruction purposes. All these tasks must be smoothly accomplished.

The prime minister should stabilize his administration and try to overcome the current crisis, a task that may require him to form a grand coalition government.